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CHAPTER I

The Rescue

NANCY DREW, an attractive girl of eighteen, was driving home along a country road in her new, dark-blue convertible. She had just delivered some legal papers for her father.

“It was sweet of Dad to give me this car for my birthday,” she thought. “And it’s fun to help him in his work.”

Her father, Carson Drew, a well-known lawyer in their home town of River Heights, frequently discussed puzzling aspects of cases with his blond, blue-eyed daughter.

Smiling, Nancy said to herself, “Dad depends on my intuition.”

An instant later she gasped in horror. From the lawn of a house just ahead of her a little girl about five years of age had darted into the roadway. A van, turning out of the driveway of the house, was barely fifty feet away from her. As the driver vigorously sounded the horn in warning, the child became confused and ran directly in front of the van. Miraculously, the little girl managed to cross the road safely and pull herself up onto a low wall, which formed one side Of a bridge. But the next second, as the van sped away, the child lost her balance and toppled off the wall out of sight!

“Oh my goodness!” Nancy cried out, slamming on her brakes. She had visions of the child plunging into the water below, perhaps striking her head fatally on a rock Nancy leaped out of her car and dashed across the road. At the foot of the embankment, she could see the curly-haired little girl lying motionless, the right side of her body in the water.

“I hope—” Nancy dared not complete the harrowing thought as she climbed down the steep slope.

When she reached the child, she saw to her great relief that the little girl was breathing normally and no water had entered her nose or mouth. A quick examination showed that she had suffered no broken bones.

Gently Nancy lifted the little girl, and holding her firmly in both arms, struggled to the top of the embankment. Then she hurried across the road and up the driveway to the child’s house.

At this moment the front door flew open and an elderly woman rushed out, crying, “Judy!

Judy!”

“I’m sure she’ll be all right,” said Nancy quickly.

The woman, seeing Nancy’s car, asked excitedly, “Did you run into her?”

“No, no. Judy fell off the bridge.” Nancy quickly explained what had taken place.

By this time another woman, slightly younger, had hurried from the house. “Our baby! What has happened to her?”

As the woman reached out to take Judy, Nancy said soothingly, “Judy’s going to be all right. I’ll carry her into the house and lay her on a couch.”

One of the women opened the screen door and the other directed, “This way.”

Nancy carried her little burden through a hallway and into a small, old-fashioned living room. As soon as she laid the child on the couch, Judy began to murmur and turn her head from side to side.

“I believe she’ll come to in a few minutes,” said Nancy.

The two women watched Judy intently as they introduced themselves as Edna and Mary Turner, great-aunts of the little girl.

“Judy lives with us,” explained Edna, the older sister. “We’re bringing her up.”

Nancy was somewhat surprised to hear that these elderly women were rearing such a small child. She gave her name and address, just as Judy opened her eyes and looked around. Seeing Nancy, she asked, “Who are you?”

“My name is Nancy. I’m glad to know you, Judy.”

“Did you see me fall?”

Nancy nodded, as the child’s Aunt Mary said, “She rescued you from the river after you fell in.”

Judy began to cry. “I’ll never, never run into the road again, really I won’t!” she told her aunts.

Nancy said she was sure that Judy never would. She patted the child, who smiled up at her. Although Nancy felt that Judy would be all right, she decided to stay a few minutes longer to see if she could be of help. The child’s wet clothes were removed and a robe put on her.

Mary Turner started for the kitchen door. “I’d better get some medication and wet compresses for Judy. She’s getting a good-sized lump on her head. Nancy, will you come with me?”

She led the way to the kitchen and headed for a first-aid cabinet which hung on the wall.

“I want to apologize to you, Nancy, for thinking you hit Judy,” the woman said. “I guess Edna and I lost our heads. You see, Judy is very precious to us. We brought up her mother, who had been an only child and was orphaned when she was a little girl. The same thing happened to Judy. Her parents were killed in a boat explosion three years ago. The poor little girl has no close relatives except Edna and me.”

“Judy looks very healthy and happy,” Nancy said quickly, “so I’m sure she must love it here.”

Mary smiled. “We do the best we can on our small income. Sometimes it just doesn’t suffice, though. We sold some old furniture to the two men in that van you saw. I don’t know who they were, but I guess the price was all right.”

Mary Turner’s thoughts went back to little Judy. “She’s so little now that Edna and I are able to manage with our small income. But we worry about the future. We’re dressmakers but our fingers aren’t so nimble with the needle as they used to be.

“To tell you the truth, Nancy, at the time Judy’s parents were killed, Edna and I wondered whether we would be able to take care of Judy properly. But we decided to try it and now we wouldn’t part with her for anything in the world. She’s won our hearts completely.”

Nancy was touched by the story. She knew what was in the minds of the Turner sisters— living costs would become higher, and with their advancing years, their own income would become lower.

“Unfortunately,” Mary went on, “Judy’s parents left very little money. But they were extremely bright people and Judy is going to be like them. She ought to study music and dancing, and have a college education. But I’m afraid we’ll never be able to give her those things.”

Nancy said reassuringly, “Judy may be able to win a scholarship, or get other financial aid.”

Mary, finding Nancy a sympathetic listener, continued, “A cousin of our father’s named Josiah Crowley used to help us. But he passed away a couple of months ago. For years he used to pay us long visits and was very generous with his money.” Miss Turner sighed. “He always promised to remember us in his will—he loved little Judy—and I am afraid Edna and I came to depend on that in our plans for her. But he did not carry out his promise.”

Nancy smiled understandingly and made, no comment. But she did wonder why Mr. Crowley had changed his mind.

“Josiah went to live with some other cousins. After that, things changed. He rarely came to see us. But he was here just last February and said the same thing—that Edna and I were to inherit money from him. He had always helped us and it seemed strange that he should stop so suddenly.”

Mary Turner looked at Nancy. “Maybe you know our well-to-do cousins that he went to stay with. They live in River Heights. They’re the Richard Tophams.”

“Do they have two daughters named Ada and Isabel?” Nancy asked. “If so, I know them.” “That’s the family all right,” replied Mary.

Nancy detected a hint of coolness in the woman’s voice. “Do you like those two girls?” Miss Turner asked.

Nancy did not answer at once. She had been taught never to gossip. But finally she said tactfully, “Ada and Isabel were in high school with me. They were never my close friends.

We—uh—didn’t see eye to eye on various things.”

By this time Mary Turner had selected a few items from the first-aid chest. Now she went to the refrigerator for some ice cubes. As she arranged the various articles on a tray, she said, “Well, when Cousin Josiah passed away, to our amazement Richard Topham produced a will which made him executor of the Crowley estate and left all the money to him, his wife, and the two girls.”

“Yes. I did read that in the newspaper,” Nancy recalled. “Is the estate a large one?”

“I understand there’s considerable money in it,” Mary Turner replied. “Some of Josiah’s other cousins say he told them the same thing he told us, and they are planning to go to court about the matter.” The woman shrugged. “But I guess a fight to break the will would be hopeless. Nevertheless, Edna and I cannot help feeling there must be a later will, although as yet no one has presented it.”

Nancy followed Miss Turner into the living room. The cold compresses helped to reduce the swelling where Judy had hit her head on a rock. Convinced now that the little girl was all right, Nancy said she must leave.

“Come to see me again soon,” Judy spoke up. “I like you, Nancy. “You’re my saving girl.”

“You bet I’ll come,” Nancy answered. “I like you too. You’re a good sport!”

The child’s great-aunts profusely thanked Nancy again for rescuing Judy. The visitor had barely reached the door when Edna suddenly said, “Mary, where’s our silver teapot?”

“Why, right there on the tea table— Oh, it’s gone!”

Edna ran into the dining room. “The silver candlesticks! They’re gone too!”

Nancy had paused in the doorway, startled. “Do you mean the pieces have been stolen?” she asked.

“They must have been,” replied Mary Turner, who was white with apprehension. “By those men who bought some furniture from us!”

Instantly Nancy thought of the men in the van. “Who were the men?” she asked.

“Oh, Mary, how could we have been so careless?” Edna Turner wailed. “We don’t know who the men were. They just knocked on the door and asked if we had any old furniture that we wanted to sell. We’ll never get the silver back!”

“Maybe you will!” said Nancy. “I’ll call the police.”

“Oh dear!” Mary said woefully. “Our phone is out of order.”

“Then I’ll try to catch up to the van!” Nancy declared. “What did the men look like?”

“They were short and heavy-set. One had dark hair, the other light. They had kind of large noses. That’s about all I noticed.” “Me too,” said Edna.

With a hasty good-by Nancy dashed from the house and ran to her car.

CHAPTER II

A Missing Will

THE BLUE convertible sped along the country road. Nancy smiled grimly.

“I’m afraid I’m exceeding the speed limit,” she thought. “But I almost wish a trooper would stop me. Then I could tell him what happened to the poor Turner sisters.”

Nancy watched the tire marks which the van driven by the thieves had evidently made in the dirt road. But a few miles farther on a feeling of dismay came over her. She had reached a V-shaped intersection of two highways. Both roads were paved, and since no tire impressions could be seen, Nancy did not know which highway the thieves had taken.

“Oh dear!” she sighed. “Now what shall I do?”

Nancy concluded that her wisest move would be to take the road which led to River Heights. There was a State Police barracks just a few miles ahead.

“I’ll stop there and report the theft.”

She kept looking for the van, which she recalled as charcoal gray. “I wish I’d seen the license number or the name of the firm that owns the van,” Nancy said to herself ruefully.

When she reached State Police headquarters Nancy introduced herself to Captain Runcie and told about the robbery, giving what meager information she could about the suspects. The officer promised to send out an alarm immediately for the thieves and their charcoalgray moving van.

Nancy continued her journey home, thinking of the Turners and their problems.

“I wonder why Mr. Josiah Crowley left all his money to the Tophams and none to his other relatives. Why did he change his mind? Those Tophams are well to do and don’t need money as much as the Turners.”

Nancy did not know Richard Topham, but she was acquainted with his wife, as well as his daughters. They were arrogant and unreasonable, and disliked by many of the shopkeepers in town. Ada and Isabel had been unpopular in high school. They had talked incessantly of money and social position, making themselves very obnoxious to the other students.

“I wonder,” Nancy thought, “if a way can’t be found so the Turners could get a share of the Crowley money. I’ll ask Dad.”

Five minutes later Nancy pulled into the double garage and hurried across the lawn to the kitchen door of the Drews’ large red-brick house. The building stood well back from the street, and was surrounded by tall,” beautiful trees.

“Hello, Nancy,” greeted the pleasant, slightly plump woman who opened the door. She was Hannah Gruen, housekeeper for the Drews, who had helped rear Nancy since the death of the girl’s own mother many years before.

Nancy gave her a hug, then asked, “Dad home? I see his car is in the garage.”

“Your father’s in the living room and dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”

Nancy went to say hello to her tall, handsome father, then hurried to wash her hands and comb her hair before the three who formed the Drew household sat down to dinner. During the meal Nancy related her adventure of the afternoon.

“What tricky thieves!” Hannah Gruen burst out. “Oh, I hope the police capture them!” “They certainly took advantage of those Turner sisters,” Mr. Drew commented.

“Mary and Edna are in financial difficulties,” Nancy commented. “Isn’t it a shame that Josiah Crowley didn’t bequeath some of his estate to the Turners and other relatives who need the money?”

Carson Drew smiled affectionately at his only child, then said, “Yes, it is, Nancy. But unless a will written later turns up, that’s the way it has to be.”

“The Turners think there is another will,” Nancy told him. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it can be found?”

“I agree,” spoke up Hannah. “It’s well known in town that Mrs. Topham and her daughters were unkind to Josiah Crowley for some time before he died. Their excuse was that Josiah’s eccentricities were extremely trying.”

“The Tophams have never been noted for any charitable inclinations,” Mr. Drew observed with a smile. “However, they did give Josiah a home.”

“Only because they knew he was going to leave all his money to them,” said Hannah. “If I’d been Josiah I wouldn’t have stayed there.” The housekeeper sighed. “But when people get old, they don’t like change. And probably he put up with things rather than move.”

She said the treatment the Tophams had accorded old Josiah Crowley had aroused a great deal of unfavorable comment throughout River Heights. Nancy had not known him personally, but she had often seen the elderly man on the street. Secretly she had regarded him as a rather nice, kindly person.

His wife had died during an influenza epidemic and after that he had made his home with various relatives. According to rumors, all these people had admitted that he had paid his board and done many favors for them. They in turn had been very kind to him, and though poor themselves, had tried to make Josiah Crowley comfortable and happy.

“Tell me everything you know about Mr. Crowley,” Nancy urged her father.

The lawyer said that the old man had publicly declared he intended to provide in his will for several deserving relatives and friends. Then, three years before his death, the Topham family, who had never shown an interest in him, had experienced a sudden change of heart. They had begged Josiah Crowley to make his home with them, and at last he had consented. Shortly after he moved into the Topham house, Mr. Drew was told that the old man had decided to leave all his money to them.

Mr. Crowley, though failing in health, maintained a firm grip on life. But as time went on, he became more and more unhappy. He continued to live with the Tophams, but it was whispered about that he frequently slipped away to visit his other relatives and friends, and that he intended to change his will again.

“Then there must be a later will!” Nancy said hopefully.

Mr. Drew nodded, and went on, “One day Josiah Crowley became critically ill. Just before his death he attempted to communicate something to the doctor who attended him, but his words, other than ‘will,’ were unintelligible. After the funeral only one will came to light, giving the entire fortune to the Tophams.”

“Dad, do you suppose Mr. Crowley was trying to tell the doctor something about another will which he had put some place where the Tophams couldn’t find it?” Nancy asked.

“Very likely,” the lawyer replied. “Probably he intended to leave his money to relatives who had been kind to him. But fate cheated him of the opportunity.”

“Do you think anybody has looked for another will?” Nancy questioned.

“I don’t know. But I’m sure of this. If another will shows up, Richard Topham will fight it. The estate is a considerable one, I understand, and they aren’t the kind of people to share good fortune.”

“Can’t the present will be contested?” Nancy asked.

“I hear that other relatives have filed a claim, declaring they were told another will had been made in their favor. But unless it is located, I doubt that the matter will ever go further.”

“But the Tophams don’t deserve the fortune,” Hannah Gruen remarked. “And besides, they don’t need the money. It doesn’t seem fair.”

“It may not seem fair, but it is legal,” Mr. Drew told her, “and I’m afraid nothing can be done about the situation.”

“Poor Judy and her aunts!” said Nancy.

“There are others affected in the same -way,” her father remarked. “For instance, two young women who live on the River Road. I don’t know their names. I understand they were not related to Mr. Crowley, but were great favorites of his. They are having a struggle and could use some extra money.”

Nancy lapsed into silence. She felt strongly that a mystery lurked behind the Crowley case.

“Dad, don’t you believe Josiah Crowley made a second will?” Nancy questioned suddenly.

“You sound like a trial lawyer, the way you cross-examine me,” Mr. Drew protested, but with evident enjoyment. “To tell the truth, Nancy, I don’t know what to think, but something did happen which might indicate that Mr. Crowley at least intended to make another will.” “Please go on!” Nancy begged impatiently.

“Well, one day nearly a year ago I was in the First National Bank when Crowley came in with Henry Rolsted.”

“The attorney who specializes in wills and other estate matters?” Nancy inquired.

“Yes. I had no intention of listening to their conversation, but I couldn’t help overhearing a few words that made me think they were discussing a will. Crowley made an appointment to call at Rolsted’s office the following day.”

“Oh!” cried Nancy excitedly. “That looks as though Mr. Crowley had made a new will, doesn’t it? But why didn’t Mr. Rolsted say something about it at the time of Mr. Crowley’s death?”

“For one of many reasons,” Mr. Drew replied. “In the first place, he may never have drawn

a new will for Mr. Crowley. And even if he had, the old man might have changed his mind again and torn it up.”

Before Nancy spoke again, she finished the delicious apple pudding which Hannah had made. Then she looked thoughtfully at her father. “Dad, Mr. Rolsted is an old friend of yours, isn’t he?”

“Yes. An old friend and college classmate.”

“Then won’t you please ask him if he ever drew up a will for Mr. Crowley, or knows anything that might solve this mystery?”

“That’s a rather delicate question, young lady. He may tell me it’s none of my business!”

“You know he won’t. You’re such good friends he’ll understand why you’re taking a special interest in this case. Will you do it? Please!”

“I know you like to help people who are in trouble,” her father said. “I suppose I could invite Mr. Rolsted to have lunch with me tomorrow—”

“Wonderful!” Nancy interrupted eagerly. “That would be a splendid opportunity to find out what he knows about a later will.”

“All right. I’ll try to arrange a date. How about joining us?”

Nancy’s face lighted up as she said, “Oh, thank you, Dad. I’d love to. I hope it can be tomorrow, so we won’t have to waste any time trying to find another will.”

Mr. Drew smiled. “We?” he said. “You mean you might try to find a hidden will if Mr. Crowley wrote one?”

“I might.” Nancy’s eyes sparkled in anticipation.

CHAPTER III

An Unpleasant Meeting

“WHAT are your plans for this morning, Nancy?” her father asked at the breakfast table.

“I thought I’d do a little shopping,” she replied. Her eyes twinkled. “There’s a dance coming up at the country club and I’d like to get a new dress.”

“Then will you phone me about lunch? Or better still, how about eating with me, whether Mr. Rolsted comes or not?”

“I’ll be there!” Nancy declared gaily.

“All right. Drop in at my office about twelve-thirty. If Mr. Rolsted does accept my invitation, we’ll try to find out something about Josiah Crow-ley’s wills.” Mr. Drew pushed back his chair. “I must hurry now or I’ll be late getting downtown.”

After her father had left, Nancy finished her breakfast, then went to the kitchen to help Hannah Gruen, who had already left the table.

“Any errands for me?” Nancy asked.

“Yes, dear. Here’s a list,” the housekeeper replied. “And good luck with your detective work.”

Hannah Gruen gazed at the girl affectionately and several thoughts raced through her mind. In school Nancy had been very popular and had made many friends. But through no fault of her own, she had made two enemies, Ada and Isabel Topham. This worried Hannah. The sisters, intensely jealous of Nancy, had tried to discredit her in positions she had held in school. But loyal friends had always sprung to Nancy’s defense. As a result, Ada and Isabel had become more unpleasant than ever to Nancy.

“Thanks for your encouragement,” she said to Hannah a little later, giving her a hug.

“Whatever you do, Nancy, beware of those Topham sisters. They’d be only too happy to make things difficult for you.”

“I promise to be on my guard.”

Before leaving the house, Nancy phoned the Turners. She was glad to hear that Judy had suffered no ill effects from her fall. But she was disappointed that the police had found no clue to the thieves who had stolen the silverware.

“Please let me know if you learn anything,” Nancy said, and Edna promised to do so.

Becomingly dressed in a tan cotton suit, Nancy set off in her convertible for the shopping district. She drove down the boulevard, and upon reaching the more congested streets, made her way skillfully through heavy traffic, then pulled into a parking lot.

“I think I’ll try Taylor’s Department Store first for a dress,” she decided.

Taylor’s was one of River Heights’ finest stores. Nancy purchased several items for Hannah on the main floor, then went directly to the misses’ wearing apparel section on the second floor.

Usually Nancy had no trouble finding a sales-clerk. But this particular morning seemed to be an especially busy one in the department, and an extra rush of customers had temporarily overwhelmed the sales force.

Nancy sat down in a convenient chair to await her turn. Her thoughts wandered to the Turner sisters and little Judy. Would she be able to help them? She was suddenly brought out of her reverie by loud-voiced complaints.

“We’ve been standing here nearly ten minutes!” a shrill voice declared. “Send a saleswoman to us immediately!”

Nancy turned to see Ada and Isabel Topham speaking to the floor manager.

“I’m afraid I can’t,” the man replied regretfully. “There are a number of others ahead of you. All our salespeople are—”

“Perhaps you don’t know who we are!” Ada interrupted rudely.

“Indeed I do,” the floor manager told her wearily. “I will have a saleswoman here in a few moments. If you will only wait—”

“We’re not accustomed to waiting,” Isabel Topham told him icily.

“Such service!” Ada chimed in. “Do you realize that my father owns considerable stock in Taylor’s? If we report your conduct to him, he could have you discharged.”

“I’m sorry,” the harassed man apologized. “But it is a rule of the store. You must await your turn.”

Ada tossed her head and her eyes flashed angrily. This did nothing to improve her looks. In spite of the expensive clothes she wore, Ada was not attractive. She was very thin and sallow, with an expression of petulance. Now that her face was distorted with anger, she was almost ugly.

Isabel, the pride of the Topham family, was rather pretty, but her face lacked character. She had acquired an artificially elegant manner of speaking which, although irritating, was sometimes amusing. It was her mother’s ambition that Isabel marry into a socially prominent family.

“I pity any future husband of hers!” Nancy thought with a chuckle.

Suddenly Ada and Isabel saw Nancy, who nodded a greeting. Isabel coldly returned the nod, but Ada gave no indication that she had even noticed Nancy.

At that moment a saleswoman hurried toward the Topham sisters. At once they began to shower abuse upon the young woman for her failure to wait on them sooner.

“What is it you wish to look at, Miss Topham?” the clerk said, flushing.

“Evening dresses.”

The saleswoman brought out several dresses. Nancy watched curiously as the Tophams, in an unpleasant frame of mind, tossed aside beautiful models with scarcely a second glance. They found fault with every garment.

“This is a very chic gown,” the saleswoman told them hopefully, as she displayed a particularly attractive dress of lace and chiffon. “It arrived only this morning.”

Ada picked it up, gave the dress one careless glance, then tossed it into a chair, as the distracted clerk went off to bring other frocks.

The fluffy gown slipped to the floor in a crumpled mass. To Nancy’s horror Ada stepped on it as she turned to examine another dress. In disgust, Nancy went to pick it up. “Leave that alone!” Ada cried out, her eyes blazing. “Nobody asked for your help.” “Are you buying this?” Nancy asked evenly.

“It’s none of your business!”

As Nancy continued to hold the dress, Ada in a rage snatched it from her hands, causing a long tear in the chiffon skirt.

“Oh!” Isabel cried out. “Now you’ve done it! We’d better get out of here, Ada!”

“And why?” her haughty sister shrilled. “It was Nancy Drew’s fault! She’s always making trouble.”

“It was not my fault,” Nancy said.

“Come on, Ada,” Isabel urged, “before that clerk gets back.”

Reluctantly Ada followed Isabel out of the department As they rushed toward a waiting elevator, Nancy gazed after them. At this moment the saleswoman reappeared with an armful of lovely frocks. She stared in bewilderment at the torn dress.

“Where did my customers go?” she asked Nancy worriedly.

Nancy pointed toward the elevator, but made no comment. Instead she said, “I’m looking for an evening dress myself. This torn one is very pretty. Do you think it could be mended?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” the woebegone clerk wailed. “I’ll probably be held responsible and I can’t afford to pay for the dress.”

“I’m sure Taylor’s wouldn’t ask you to do that,” Nancy said kindly. “If there’s any trouble, I’ll speak to the manager myself. What usually happens is that such a dress is greatly reduced.”

“Thank you,” the clerk replied. “I’ll call Miss Reed, the fitter, and see what can be done.” “First, let me try on the dress,” Nancy said, smiling.

They found a vacant fitting room and Nancy took off her suit and blouse. Then she slipped the lovely pale-blue dance creation over her head and the saleswoman zipped it up.

“It’s darling on you,” she said enthusiastically.

Nancy grinned. “I kind of like myself in it,” she said. “Please call the fitter now.”

Presently Miss Reed, a gray-haired woman, appeared. Within seconds she had made a change in an overlap o£ the chiffon skirt. The tear was no longer visible and the style of the dress was actually improved.

“I told our manager what happened,” said the saleswoman. “If you want the dress, he will reduce the price fifty percent.”

“How wonderful!” Nancy exclaimed. Laughing, she said, “That price will fit into my budget nicely. I’ll take the dress. Please send it.” She gave her name and address. To herself she added, “Ada Topham did me a favor. But if she ever finds out what happened, she’ll certainly be burned up!” Nancy suppressed a giggle.

“It’s been a real pleasure waiting on you, Miss Drew,” the saleswoman said after Miss Reed left and Nancy was putting on her suit. “But how I dread to see those Topham sisters come in here! They’re so unreasonable. And they’ll be even worse when they get Josiah Crowley’s money.”

The woman lowered her voice. “The estate hasn’t been settled, but the girls are counting on the fortune already. Last week I heard Ada say to her sister, ‘Oh, I guess there’s no question about our getting old Crowley’s fortune. But I wish Father would stop worrying that somebody is going to show up with a later will which may do us out of it.’ “ Nancy was too discreet to engage in gossip with the saleswoman. But she was interested and excited about the information. The fact that Mr. Topham was disturbed indicated to her that he too suspected Josiah Crowley had made a second will The conversation reminded Nancy of her date. She glanced at her wrist watch and saw that it was after twelve o’clock.

“I must hurry or I’ll be late for an appointment with my dad,” she told the saleswoman.

Nancy drove directly to her father’s office. Although she was a few minutes ahead of the appointed time, she found that he was ready to leave.

“What luck, Dad?” Nancy asked eagerly. “Did Mr. Rolsted accept your luncheon invitation?”

“Yes. We are to meet him at the Royal Hotel in ten minutes. Do you still think I should quiz him about the Crowley will?”

“Oh, I’m more interested than ever in the case.” She told her father about the saleswoman’s gossipy remarks.

“Him,” said Mr. Drew. “It’s not what you’d call evidence, but the old saying usually holds good, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ Come, let’s go!”

The Royal Hotel was located less than a block away, and Nancy and her father quickly walked the distance. Mr. Rolsted was waiting in the lobby. Carson Drew introduced his daughter, then the three made their way to the dining room where a table had been reserved for them.

At first the conversation centered about a variety of subjects. As the luncheon progressed the two lawyers talked enthusiastically of their college days together and finally of their profession. Nancy began to fear that the subject of the Crowley estate might never be brought up.

Then, after the dessert course, Mr. Drew skillfully turned the conversation into a new channel and mentioned some strange cases which he had handled.

“By the way,” he said, “I haven’t heard the details of the Crowley case. How are the Tophams making out? I understand other relatives are trying to break the will.”

For a moment Mr. Rolsted remained silent. Was he reluctant to enter into a discussion of the matter? Nancy wondered.

Finally the lawyer said quietly, “The settlement of the estate wasn’t given to me, Carson.

But I confess I’ve followed it rather closely because of something that happened a year ago.

As the present will stands, I do not believe it can be broken.”

“Then the Tophams fall heir to the entire estate,” Mr. Drew commented.

“Yes, unless a more recent will is uncovered.”

“Another will?” Carson Drew inquired innocently. “Then you believe Crowley made a second one?”

Mr. Rolsted hesitated as though uncertain whether or not he should divulge any further information. Then, with a quick glance about, he lowered his voice and said, “Of course this is strictly confidential—”

CHAPTER IV

Racing the Storm

“CONFIDENTIAL?” Mr. Drew repeated, looking at Mr. Rolsted. “You may rest assured that whatever you tell us will not be repeated to anyone.”

“Well, I’ll say this much,” Mr. Rolsted went on, “about a year ago Josiah Crowley came to me and said he wanted to draw up a new will. He indicated that he intended to spread out his bequests among several people. He expressed a desire to write the will himself, and asked me a number of questions. I took him to my office and told him exactly how to proceed. When he left, he promised to have me look over the document after he had drawn it up “ “Then you actually saw the will?” Mr. Drew asked in surprise.

“No. Strange to say, Crowley never came back. I don’t know whether he ever wrote the will or not.”

“And if he did, there would be a chance that it would not be legal?” Nancy spoke up.

“Yes. He might have typed it and signed the paper without a witness. In this state at least two witnesses are required and three are advisable.”

“What would happen,” Nancy asked, “if a person were ill or dying and had no witness, and wanted to make a will?”

Mr. Rolsted smiled. “That sometimes happens. If the person writes the will himself by hand and signs it, so there’s no doubt the same person did both, the surrogate’s office will accept it for probate.”

“Then if Mr. Crowley wrote out and signed a new will, it would be legal,” Nancy commented.

“That’s right. But there’s another thing to remember. It’s pretty risky for someone who is not a lawyer to draw up a will that cannot be broken.”

Mr. Drew nodded. “If Josiah Crowley left any loophole in a will he wrote personally, the Tophams would drag the matter into court.”

“Yes. It’s a foregone conclusion that the Tophams will fight to keep the fortune whether they have a right to it or not. I believe some other relatives have filed a claim, but up to the moment they have no proof that a later will exists.”

Although Nancy gave no indication of her feelings, the possibility that Mr. Crowley had made a new will thrilled her. As soon as Mr. Drew paid the luncheon check, the three arose and left the dining room. Mr. Rolsted took leave o£ Nancy and her father in the lobby.

“Well, Nancy, did you find out what you wanted to know?” Mr. Drew asked after the lawyer had left.

“Oh, Dad, it’s just as I suspected. I’m sure Mr. Crowley did make a later will He hid it some place If only I could find out where!”

“It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Mr. Drew commented.

“I must figure out a way!” Nancy said with determination. “I want to help little Judy.”

She awoke the next morning thinking about the mystery. But where should she start hunting for possible clues to a second will? She continued pondering about it while she showered and dressed.

As she entered the dining room, she was greeted with a cheery “Good morning” from her father and Hannah Gruen. During breakfast Mr. Drew said, “Nancy, would you do a little errand for me this morning?”

“Why, of course, Dad.”

“I have a number of legal documents which must be delivered to Judge Hart at Masonvillesome time before noon. I’d take them myself, but I have several important appointments. I’d appreciate it if you would drive over there with them.”

“I’ll be glad to go,” Nancy promised willingly. “Besides, it’s such a wonderful day. I’ll enjoy the trip. Where are the papers?”

“At the office. You can drive me down and I’ll get them for you.”

Nancy, wearing a yellow sunback dress and jacket, hurried away to get her gloves and handbag. Before Mr. Drew had collected his own belongings, she had brought her car from the garage and was waiting for him at the front door.

“I put the top down so I can enjoy the sun,” she explained as her father climbed in.

“Good idea. I haven’t heard you mention the Crowley case yet today,” Mr. Drew teased as they rode along. “Have you forgotten about it?”

Nancy’s face clouded. “No, I haven’t forgotten, but I must admit I am stumped as to where to search for clues.”

“Maybe I can help you. I’ve learned that the two girls on River Road who expected to be remembered in the will are named Hoover. You might look them up on your return trip.”

“That’s great. I’ll watch the mailboxes for their name.”

When they reached the building where Mr. Drew had his office, Nancy parked the car and waited while her father went upstairs to get the legal documents to be delivered to Judge Hart Returning a few minutes later, he placed a fat Manila envelope in his daughter’s hand.

“Give this to the judge. You know where to find him?”

“Yes, Dad.In the old Merchants Trust Company Building.”

“That’s right.”

Selecting a recently constructed highway, Nancy rode along, glancing occasionally at the neatly planted fields on cither side. Beyond were rolling hills.

“Pretty,” she commented to herself. “Oh, why can’t all people be nice like this scenery and not make trouble?”

It was nearly eleven o’clock when she finally drove into Masonville. Nancy went at once to Judge Hart’s office but was informed he had gone to the courthouse. Recalling that her father had mentioned the necessity of the papers being delivered before noon, she set off in search of the judge.

Nancy had considerable trouble trying to see him, and it was twelve o’clock when at last she delivered the Manila envelope into his hands.

“Thank you very much,” he said. “I’ll need these directly after lunch.”

Nancy smiled. “Then I’m glad I found you.”

When Judge Hart learned that Nancy was the daughter of Carson Drew, he at once insisted that she have luncheon with him and his wife at their home before returning to River Heights.

She accepted the invitation and spent a very pleasant hour with the Harts. During the meal the judge laughingly asked if Nancy was still playing aide to her father.

“Oh, yes,” she said, and at once told him about the Drews’ interest in the Crowley case.

“Did you know Josiah Crowley or ever hear of him?” she asked.

Both the Harts nodded. “A maid who used to be with them, came to work for us after Mrs. Crowley’s death,” the judge explained. “Jane herself passed away a short time ago.”

“We never met Josiah,” Mrs. Hart added, “but Jane pointed him out to my husband and me one time down on Main Street.”

“Did he have relatives or friends in town?” Nancy inquired.

“I think not,” the judge replied.

Nancy wondered what old Josiah had been doing in Masonville if he had no relatives or friends there. The town was not known as a spot for sight-seeing. Her interest was further quickened when Mrs. Hart remarked that she had seen Mr. Crowley in town at another time also.

“How long ago was that?” the girl asked.

Mrs. Hart thought a minute, then replied, “Oh, less than a year, I’d say.”

When luncheon was over, the judge said he must leave. Nancy told the Harts she too should go. She thanked them for their hospitality, then said good-by. Soon she was driving homeward.

“Why had Mr. Crowley gone to Masonville?” she asked herself. “Could it have had anything to do with a later will?”

Nancy had chosen a route which would take her to River Road. Half an hour later she turned into the beautiful country road which wound in and out along the Muskoka River, and began to look at the names on the mailboxes. “Hoover,” she reminded herself.

About halfway to River Heights, while enjoying the pastoral scenes of cows standing kneehigh in shallow sections of the stream, and sheep grazing on flower-dotted hillsides, Nancy suddenly realized the sun had been blotted out.

“A thunderstorm’s on the way,” she told herself, glancing at black clouds scudding across the sky. “Guess I’d better put the top of the car up.”

She pressed the button on the dashboard to raise the top, but nothing happened. Puzzled, Nancy tried again. Still there was no response. By this time large drops of rain had started to fall.

“I’ll get soaked,” Nancy thought, as she looked around.

There was no shelter in sight. But ahead, past a steep rise, was a sharp bend in the road. Hopeful that there would be a house or barn beyond, Nancy started the car again.

Vivid forked lightning streaked across the sky. It was followed by an earth-shaking clap of thunder. The rain came down harder.

“Oh, why didn’t I bring a raincoat?” Nancy wailed.

When Nancy swung around the bend, she was delighted to see a barn with lightning rods about a quarter mile ahead. Farther on stood a small white house.

“I wonder if that’s the Hoover place,” Nancy mused.

By now the storm was letting loose in all its fury. The sky was as dark as night and Nancy had to switch on her headlights to see the road. She was already thoroughly drenched and her thought of shelter at this point was one of safety rather than of keeping dry.

Nancy turned on the windshield wipers, but the rain was so blinding in its intensity, it was impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. Almost in an instant the road had dissolved into a sea of mud.

Nancy had been caught in a number of storms, but never one as violent as this. She feared a bad skid might land her in a ditch before she could reach the shelter of the barn.

“How much farther is it?” she worried. “It didn’t seem this far away.”

The next instant, to Nancy’s right, a ball of fire rocketed down from the sky.

“Oh! That was close!” she thought fearfully. Her skin tingled from the electrical vibrations in the air.

A moment later a surge of relief swept over Nancy. “At last!” she breathed.

At the side of the road the barn loomed up. Its large double doors were wide open. Without hesitation, Nancy headed straight for the building and drove in.

The next moment she heard a piercing scream!

CHAPTER V

A Surprising Story

NANCY froze behind the wheel. Had she inadvertently hit someone? Her heart pounding in fright, she opened the car door to step out.

At the same instant a shadowy figure arose from a pile of hay near her. “I guess I must have scared you silly when I screamed,” said a girl of Nancy’s age, stepping forward.

“You— You’re all right?” Nancy gasped.

“Yes. And I’m sorry I yelled. I came out here to check on our supply of feed for the chickens. I didn’t think it was going to be a bad storm, so I didn’t bother to go back to the house.”

“It’s pretty bad,” said Nancy.

“Well, the storm terrified me,” the girl continued. “I didn’t hear your car coming, and when it rushed in here, I panicked.”

Nancy began to breathe normally again, then told the stranger her name and the fact that the mechanism for raising the top of the convertible was not working.

“That’s a shame,” said the girl. “And you must get your clothes dried. The storm is letting up. Let’s dash over to the house. Grace will help you too. She’s my sister. My name’s Allison Hoover.”

Hoover! Nancy was tempted to tell Allison that she had been planning to call, but she decided not to mention it at the moment. It might be better to do her sleuthing more subtly.

Nancy smiled at Allison. “Thanks a million. But first I’d like to wipe out the car. Are there any rags around the barn?”

Allison produced several and together the two girls mopped the water from the cushions and floor. By this time the rain had stopped. As Nancy and Allison sloshed through a series of puddles to the farmhouse, Nancy had a better chance to study her companion. She was tall, with reddish-blond hair and very fair skin. Her voice was musical and she had an attractive, lilting laugh.

The girls reached the run-down farmhouse and stamped the mud from their shoes on the back porch. Then Allison flung open the door, and they entered a cheerful kitchen.

As the door shut behind them, another girl who was just closing the oven of an oldfashioned range turned toward them in surprise.

“Grace, I’ve brought a visitor,” Allison said quickly. “Nancy, I want you to meet my sister.

She’s the mainstay of our family of two.”

Grace Hoover cordially acknowledged the introduction and greeted Nancy with a warm smile. Nancy judged her to be at least four years older than Allison. Her face was rather serious, and it was evident from her manner that responsibility had fallen on her shoulders at an early age.

Nancy was attracted to both girls and responded to their friendly welcome. She put on a robe which Allison brought her and Grace hung her wet clothes near the range. Presently Grace pulled an ironing board from a closet with the intention of pressing Nancy’s garments. But Nancy would not hear of this and began to iron them herself.

“This is fun,” she said to the sisters. “I don’t know what I would have done without you girls.”

“It’s great for us,” Allison spoke up. “We don’t have much company. To tell you the truth, we can’t afford it.”

Grace stepped to the stove, removed a golden-brown cake from the oven, and set it on the table to cool.

“But today we’re not talking about money. It’s Allison’s birthday and this is a birthday cake. Nancy, if you’re not in too much of a hurry, I wish you’d join us in a little celebration.” “Why, I’d love to,” Nancy said.

“Grace’s cakes are yummy,” Allison declared. “I’m not much of a cook myself. My department is taking care of the barn and the chickens.”

Soon Nancy finished pressing her clothes and put them back on. Meanwhile, the cake had cooled and Grace started to spread the chocolate frosting.

“Suppose you two go into the living room and wait,” she suggested. “I’ll bring in the cake and tea.”

Nancy followed Allison to the adjoining room. Although it was comfortable, the room did not contain much furniture. The floor had been painted and was scantily covered with handmade rag rugs. With the exception of an old-fashioned sofa, an inexpensive table, a few straight-backed chairs and an old oil stove which furnished heat in cold weather, there was little else in the room. However, dainty white curtains covered the windows, and Nancy realized that although the Hoovers were poor, they had tried hard to make their home attractive.

“Do you two girls live here alone all the time?” Nancy inquired.

Allison nodded. “Grace and I have been living here since Father died. That was two years ago. Mother passed away just before that,” the girl added with a slight catch in her voice. “Their illnesses took every penny we had.”

“I’m terribly sorry,” Nancy remarked sympathetically. “It must be dreadfully hard for two girls to run the farm by themselves.”

“Our farm isn’t as large as it once was,” Allison said quietly. “We have only a few acres left. I know you are too polite to ask how we manage, Nancy. Grace helps a dressmaker at Masonville whenever she can get work. She makes all her own, clothes and mine too. And I raise chickens.”

From just beyond the doorway suddenly came the strains of “Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birth—”

By this time Nancy had joined in. She and Grace finished “—day to you.Happy Birthday, dear Allison.Happy Birthday to you!”

Grace set the cake with eighteen lighted candles on the table. She and Nancy sang the second verse with the words “May you have many more!”

Tears stood in Allison’s eyes. When the song ended, she grasped her sister in a tremendous hug. Then she gave Nancy one.

“This—this is the nicest birthday I’ve had in years,” she quavered.

“And it’s one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever attended,” Nancy said sincerely.

Suddenly Allison began to sing a tuneful old English ballad about the birthday of a village lass. Nancy listened entranced to Allison’s clear, bell-like tones. When she finished, Nancy applauded, then said: “That was perfectly lovely. You have a beautiful voice, Allison!”

The singer laughed gaily. “Thank you, Nancy. I’ve always wanted to take lessons, but as you know, voice training is pretty expensive.”

At that moment Grace brought in a tray of fragrant tea. As she poured three cups, Allison blew out the candles and served the cake.

“I’ve never tasted anything more delicious in all my life,” Nancy said enthusiastically.

The three girls chatted like old friends. Finally the sun broke through the clouds. As Nancy rose to leave, she noticed an unusual picture on the wall opposite her and commented on its beauty.

“Uncle Josiah Crowley gave it to us,” Allison told her. “If he were only alive now, things would be different.”

At the mention of the name, Nancy sat down again. Was she going to pick up a clue to the possibility that Mr. Crowley had made a later will?

“He wasn’t really our uncle,” Grace explained. “But we loved him as much as though he were a relative.” Her voice broke and for a moment she could not go on. Then, gaining control of herself, she continued, “He lived on the farm next to us—that was when Mother and Father were alive. All of Allison’s and my misfortunes seemed to come at once.”

“He was the dearest man you ever saw,” Allison added. “Some people thought him queer, but you never minded his peculiar ways after you knew him. Uncle Josiah was very good to us. He always told me that he’d back me in a singing career.”

“Yes,” Grace added. “Uncle Josiah used to say Allison sang as sweetly as a bird and he wanted to pay for lessons with a famous teacher. But after he went to live with the Tophams, he never said any more about it.”

“He never liked it with the Tophams, though,” Allison declared. “They weren’t kind to him, and he used to slip away to visit us.”

“Uncle Josiah often said that we seemed like his own children,” Grace spoke up. “He brought us many nice gifts, but we loved him for himself and not his money. I remember, though, the very last day we saw him alive, he told us ‘I have planned a big surprise to make you girls happy. But I can’t tell you now what it is. You’ll see it in my will.’ Those were his very words.”

“And then the Tophams got everything,” Allison said. “He must have changed his mind for some reason.”

“It’s hard to believe he would forget his promise to us,” Grace said sadly.

“Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if a later will could be found!” Allison exclaimed.

“Yes,” Nancy replied slowly. “I’ve heard that Mr. Crowley told other people he was leaving money to them. The Turner sisters, for instance. Do you know them?” “Slightly,” Grace answered.

“My dad,” Nancy went on, “is a lawyer and he and I are very much interested in this case. He even mentioned you girls, and to tell the truth I was on my way here to talk to you.”

Allison impulsively grasped Nancy’s arm. “You say your father is a lawyer? Grace and I are positive Uncle Josiah made a later will. Oh, if we could only engage your father to help us prove this!” Then a sad look came over her face. “But I’m forgetting—we wouldn’t have any money to pay him if we should lose the case.”

“Don’t let that worry you,” said Nancy kindly. “This is your birthday and you must be happy, Allison. My special wish for you is that before you’re one year older, you’ll inherit some of the Crowley money, so that you can take those singing lessons!”

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